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Venezuela accuses US of kidnapping; negotiations break down

A woman walks past a poster demanding the freedom of Colombian businessman Alexander Saab, who was extradited to the US, in Caracas, on October 17, 2021. (Photo by Federico PARRA / AFP)

The Venezuelan government and the US-backed opposition started their latest round of negotiations in August, hoping to finally reach a consensus to alleviate the country’s political and economic crisis. However, the talks face a deadlock after a member of the governments negotiating team was arrested and extradited to the US.

The faceoff between the Venezuelan Government's of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition led by Juan Guido has put Caracas in a long political impasse and economic crisis.

Several rounds of talks in recent years have been futile, and the two sides have failed to reach a consensus.

In August, the Venezuelan government and the opposition began a new round of negotiations in Mexico City, aimed at overcoming Venezuela's political and economic crisis. The dialogue was mediated by Norway.

However, the latest developments have hampered the process of a possible settlement. Venezuela's government decided to suspend the talks after Cape Verde extradited a Venezuelan envoy named Alex Saab to the United States on money laundering charges on Saturday.

Saab was arrested in Cape Verde under a US arrest warrant in June 2020 when his plane stopped there to refuel. Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, lashed out at the US for what he called kidnapping of an envoy to face an American court.

Saab was taken yesterday, skirting over everything. A plane arrived, assassins, hit-men came down. They sought him out, and they removed him with blows from the jail he was held.

They took him without advising lawyers, the family, nobody; a kidnapping by the United States government of an international diplomat.

Nicholas Maduro, President of Venezuela

Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the Venezuelan government's negotiating team, described the government's decision as a deep expression of protest over the brutal aggression against Alex Saab. He also called on Washington to release Saab immediately.

Venezuela is alerting the world that the life of Alex SAAB is in danger, it's in the hands of a judicial system that is directed at harming Venezuela, and we demand his immediate release by the American government.

Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuelan Negotiator

The US sought Saab in 2019 in connection with a bribery scheme and sanctioned him for allegedly orchestrating a corruption network that allowed Caracas to profit from a state run food subsidy programme.

However, lawyers representing Saab have denied the US charges and claim they are politically motivated.

This is absolutely a political attack on Venezuela, and it is a kidnapping. This shows just how far in lawlessness The United States is willing to go, and how much they are determined to attack Venezuela.

Sara Flounders, International Action Center

Meanwhile, US backed opposition figure, Juan Guaidó, reacted to the decision to suspend the talks by accusing the government of evading the nation's problems. Caracas aims to ease US lead sanctions on the nation, while the opposition says it aims to use the talks to secure guarantees for regional elections to be held in the fall.

Venezuela descended into political turmoil after a US backed opposition figure, Juan Guaidó, unilaterally declared himself Interim President in January 2019.

He claimed that the reelection of Maduro in 2018 was fraudulent; consequently, the United States refrained from recognizing Nicolas Maduro's re election in 2018, imposed sanctions on the crisis hit economy of the Latin American nation, and froze millions of dollars of Venezuelan money in US bank accounts.

Washington has been using sanctions as leverage to overthrow the legitimate government of Maduro in what has been termed economic terrorism.

Venezuela has faced chronic shortages of food and medicine as a result of US sanctions, resulting in years of political and economic crisis.

Well, this is exactly what the US government wants to prevent. And this may be also an effort on their part to sabotage the negotiations going on in Mexico, but how can the talks continue in this situation?

What needs to be condemned and denounced is depriving any country of food and medicine, particularly at this juncture in time with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing.

Sara Flounders, International Action Center

Freezing assets and placing unlawful sanctions on countries that refuse to submit to Washington's hegemonic policies is nothing new.

The US sanctions have directly targeted the innocent Venezuelan people.

Experts say the sanctions, used as a tool for regime change have no effect on the stability of the Maduro administration, but further complicate the socio economic condition of ordinary people amid a full blown crisis.


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